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Bad Neighbors

September 24, 2010
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Despite the fact that I live in the suburbs in what may be oxy-moronically considered an “urban environment”, I have interactions with wildlife right outside my door on a daily basis.   Granted it’s nothing flashy, and generally it operates on a scale far smaller than most vertebrates, but wildlife is everywhere you’re willing to look for it.

Urban wildlife cliches aside, I’m happy to make the limited habitat I have available in my townhome available to whatever mildly invasive generalist species that can hack it in this part of North Carolina.  That may be out of laziness on my part that they persist, but I’m generally a live and let live kind of guy.  There are few exceptions, ants in the house for one, or the Mud Dauber wasps that insist on attempting to brood immediately outside my front door, but I’ll happily share my small bit of real estate with all comers.  But even I was a little taken aback at the rapid expansion of a particular insect sub-lessee over the last few weeks.

It started a small nest, only three or four cells and a pair of wasps.  That’s why I let it be.  I knew that the species in question, Polistes metricus, commonly known as Paper Wasp but one of dozens of species known by that name, was not aggressive by nature and was not likely to bother any of us who walked past the nest under the eave of our front porch multiple times daily.  But it wasn’t long before the nest grew, and not more than a couple weeks later I’d glance up under the eave to see a mass of squirming wasps growing with every new adult they pulled out of its papery womb.  I am not a squeamish person, but nor am I made of stone either.

But still I’ve let them do their thing, and here it is the last week of September and they’re still going strong.  Anything I’d do now to remove the nest is likely to do more harm anyway so I might as well let it peter out naturally.  The nest itself has appeared to pass critical mass anyway, which is a good thing, and I’m hoping that the activity continues to decline leading into October when we’re likely to get our first frost in another few weeks.  That will no doubt end the summer fun for my new neighbors, and ease the consternation of my wife who has never been quite as abiding to these sorts of things as I am.  She’s trying though, but as a Jewish person I can’t blame her for not understanding waspy behavior.  This, after all, is a face even a mother would have trouble loving.

Once the insects are gone and the nest can finally be safely removed, the question then becomes whether or not I’d be amenable to the same Paper Wasps taking up residence again next year.  Will I nip the nest in the bud early?

Who knows.  But it’s made for a mildly exciting summer anyway.

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3 Comments
  1. September 25, 2010 11:18 am

    You know, I’m deathly allergic to wasp stings but still love the critters. Paper wasps though? My experience is that most Polistes spp. are rather disagreeable. Maybe that’s because they’re the only type of wasp to sting me since my allergy developed. Still, like you I try to live and let live–except when paper wasps nest on my home. Then I break up the party before it gets in full swing. I suppose I prefer to feel safe while standing on my patio.

  2. Nate permalink*
    September 25, 2010 2:40 pm

    @Jason- I guess we’ve been lucky. The only issue we’ve had with these guys is that occasionally one will get into the house, which has only happened twice so far this summer so it hasn’t been too bad. They’re certainly on guard when we walk out the door though, and as soon as we make an appearance I can see half a dozen little yellow faces staring at me. It’s a little disconcerting, but not troublesome.

    That said, I think I’ll be happy when the last one leaves and I can finally knock down the nest.

  3. September 25, 2010 6:19 pm

    When we were Painted Bunting banding at Bear Island, I had one randomly sting me on the ear. Very painful…

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